The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday gave the D.C. government a long-awaited go-ahead to build 28 town houses in the H Street NE riot corridor under the government's Turnkey program, which provides for ultimate ownership by public housing families.
The houses will cost $58,800 each. The city government will pay the 30-year mortgages on the homes, and once they are paid for, they will belong to the families who live in them.
The 28 town houses will be the second set of houses the city has built for home ownership by public housing families under the Turnkey program. In the first such project, 54 houses were built in the Northwest community of Shaw in 1969 at a cost of $52,200 each. They have been well-maintained, housing officials said.
The modestly equipped two and three-story town houses in Northeast will be built on Wylie Court, a one-block street off 13th Street between H and I Streets. Each will have from three to five bedrooms, an unfinished basement and 1 1/2 or 2 bathrooms.
But they will not come equipped with air-conditioning, dishwashers, trash compactors or carpeting - the usual accoutrements of town house new being built for sale on the private market.
Large families qualifying for public housing and ranging in size from five to 10 members, and with annual incomes of $16,400 to $18,200, will be eligible for the homes, said Monteria Ivey, head of the public housing branch of the city's housing department.
The families will pay only their utility bills and a monthly fee for a reserve fund to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the homes.
D.C. housing officials and the private firm that will build the homes attribute the relatively high cost of the houses to a requirement that homes built in the city's central core must be all brick, rather than brick veneer, in construction.
"I can't believe the cost of these houses," said Joseph Minor of the housing department, who has worked on the project since its inception. "It's difficult to believe the cost of brick and mortar construction," he said.
"In Northwest, you are faced with a (housing) code from George Washington that established the fire district and adds significantly to the costs" by requiring the all-brick construction, said Warren W. Porter, whose firm will build the homes.
"That's why nobody wants to build there and not sell for less than $100,000," he said.
Porter said his firm is also building 104 new town houses on Wheeler Road SE. In contrast to the Turnkey houses in Northeast, they will have three and four bedrooms as well for $46,000 to $51,000 each.
They will also have trash compactors, wall-to-wall carpeting, dishwashers, oak cabinets and 24-hour security, he said.
But the homes will not be all brick. They will have a wooden frame with a brick veneer, Porter said. The cost of the brick to be built on Wylie Court is 22 per cent more expensive than the southeast ones, he said.
Another requirement that the firm, Inner-City Real Estate Developers Inc., pay union-scale wages and the need to replace bad earth for foundations in Northeast also add substantially to the cost of these homes, he said. The company does not have these costs in Southeast, he said.
Ivey said the cost of the homes is justified because "it has been demonstrated that people take care of property better if they own it. They have a sense of community."
The town houses will be only the second housing project begun in the H Street corridor since much of the once-busy shopping district was destroyed during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1963 Ninety-one apartments that will be priced for low and moderate-income families are currently under construction at 16th and F streets NE.